Anyone listening to Carley Tanchon's debut CD Peridot for the first time could be forgiven for thinking it's the work of a much older, more seasoned musician. Her sophisticated songwriting has a strong sense of structure but it's full of off-center touches that make the songs distinctive. And there's an expansiveness and reflective depth to her vocals on tunes like the torchy, experienced "Don't Chill This Flame" or the intricate jazz-blues strut of "Waiting" that belies her 22 years. She moves easily from country-tinged rocker "Image of a Man," which features the sort of complex, ambivalent lyrics you rarely find in such tunes to pensive, acoustic-flavored songs like "Fool's Gold" and the folksy "Derailing Home."
Tanchon's been laying the groundwork for her passion for almost her entire life and working hard to make sure that she could make it her life. Growing up in Chagrin Falls, she was immersed in music: learning guitar, performing in musicals, tinkering with songwriting.
"I was onstage from the time I was three years old," she says. "I enjoyed school, but I knew if I didn't do music, I'd regret it for the rest of my life."
In high school, she knew she wanted to go to Boston's Berklee College of Music.
"They have such a contemporary program," she says. "They do so much to prepare you for the business as well as musically. They took us through everything — studying agents and managers and lawyers, CD production."
She completed Berklee's four-year degree program in two-and-a-half years, in part because of college-level classes she'd taken in high school. She joined a cover band, and once she finished school — still based in Boston — she toured the country with them for a year and a half, developing her chops as an entertainer and stretching the range of material she could make her own.
"We would do Sinatra gigs where I would sing old jazz standards," she says. "We did Natalie Cole, old Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn, disco, pop, dance — everything you can imagine. It was so much fun. For a year and a half, I completely supported myself playing music. I was meeting a lot of people and getting the inside workings of it. But it was a stepping stone — I always knew that what I wanted to do was perform the music I was writing."
So last October, she relocated to Nashville to focus on that. She'd finished most of the music on her CD already while still in Boston, backed by guitarist Adam Tressler — a longtime friend and musical compatriot from Chagrin Falls who'd also gone to Berklee — and a couple of other Berklee alumni, bassist Reuben Carter and drummer James Williams.
"I realized how routine [the cover band] had become," she says. "I said, 'OK. I've gotten everything I'm going to get out of this situation — I've got to pick up and start making other things happen. I had everything recorded, but I still had to go to New York to do more mixing and get it mastered. I designed all the artwork myself. And I was digging into Nashville community, co-writing with people. There's a great independent music scene there. I feel it's a good fit for myself musically. It's been a challenge but no better or worse than I expected."
With her background in a wide range of music and love for artists like Stevie Wonder, the Beatles, Joni Mitchell and Patty Griffin — "people who speak to your heart and have a really honest way of presenting it" — Tanchon is well prepared for her goal of building a long-term career.
"In this day and age, the music business is so much about songs and people don't hold on to performers the way they used to," she says. "I'm hoping to establish to a strong, loyal fan base. It's done in a personal way, one person at a time. It's my passion for music; I have to tell people things that are important to me. All I aim to do is be sincere and genuine. I want to connect with people, and music is a great avenue to do that."